Hello, Hello and Hello:Volume 1 Chapter 3
Contact 12 - Haru's Fragrance
“Can I trouble you for a moment?”
I was approached by a girl I had never met.
It happened when I was at the bookstore near the station, looking for new works from my favorite author.
Her voice sounded a little sharp and forceful, probably because she was a little nervous.
“I want that book. Can you get it for me, please?”
Her slender fingertip was pointed at the tallest row on the bookshelf crammed with books. But there were covers of various colors arranged messily there. I couldn’t tell which book she was pointing to.
“The one with the blue cover.”
The moment I saw the book, I cried out.
It was the book I was looking for. As she had said, there was only one such book. It was placed on the bookshelf, and not the new publications corner.
“There’s a stool there.”
She didn’t notice my reaction at all as she pointed the same finger at the stool next to me. My eyes followed her finger from the rack to the stool.
And then, I looked towards the girl again.
She’s a cutie, her short hair just over her eye. She’s of similar height to me, maybe a little taller. She should be able to grab the book herself if she wanted to.
She wasn’t willing to grab it herself, because of her clothes.
She was wearing a miniskirt.
Since she’s dressed like this, there’ll be an upskirt if she stood up high. I see. Seems like girls have lots of things they have to take note of.
So I did what she told me to, moved the stool over, and reached my hand for the blue book. I wasn’t tall enough, so I tiptoed, and barely touched the shiny new cover of the book. It’s a new work from the author after a two year hiatus, and it’s in my hands. But…
Though feeling a little conflicted, I handed the book obtained with much difficulty, to her.
She embraced the book dotingly in her clutches.
“Ah, it’s okay. You like this author’s works?”
“I like them too.”
I was trying not to sound too downhearted, but it seemed the girl noticed some things in my tone, for she looked a little gloomy.
“Are you looking for this book too?”
“I never thought it would be up there.”
“I couldn’t find it, so I went to ask the clerk. I was told “This should be the only one left”.”
“I see. So this is the only one left? Too bad. Guess I’ll go elsewhere to look.”
I lied with a smile.
I searched through all the other stores before coming here.
In the rural town I lived in, the store would not hold any books unless they were prized works, to be adapted into movies, or bestselling works in the thousands, even if they were new works. It’s my fault for being too naïve to think that I could get it on the release date, and too lazy to preorder.
Looks like I have to give up.
I dropped my shoulders dejectedly, and headed towards the exit.
For some reason, she called out to me.
“If you don’t mind, how about I lend you this book? Once I finish it, that is.”
“Why would you lend it to me?”
“Because I like to read. I know the feeling of wanting to read a book as soon as possible.”
And while I was wondering how to answer her, she lowered her head awkwardly for some reason. “Erm, if I’m being too much of a busybody here, my apologies.” From that teeny-weeny voice of hers, I realized how much courage she needed to call out to me.
My chest suddenly became hot, and I naturally looked down.
“It’s alright. Thanks. I’m really grateful. My name’s Segawa Haruyoshi. Please take care of me.”
Upon hearing my words, she heaved a sigh of relief, and showed a bright smile.
“Yes. Nice to meet you, Segawa-kun. I'm Shiina Yuki.”
It happened in Spring, at the end of my second year in Middle School.
That was how I met Yuki Shiina.
Once we left the bookstore, we went to the café Shiina-san wanted to visit.
We cautiously opened the wooden door, and the bell inside chimed twice. Flowing with an air of calmness in the shop was jazz music I had never heard before, and the fragrance of coffee filled the corners of the shop.
It felt like a place for adults.
Time passed by slowly and gracefully here.
“Welcome. Oh my, what cute guests we have here.”
There’s one young, pretty girl, who seemed to be slightly older than me, in the shop. We’re the only customers. “Choose any seat you like.” The girl beamed.
I was looking around in the shop, and without hesitation, Shiina-san sat at the seats with the brightest lighting. I hurried over, and sat opposite her.
The March sunlight shining from outside the window was really warm.
I had an urge to yawn, but I gritted my teeth, holding it in. Shiina-san saw this, and giggled. “You’re like a cat.”
“We should be ordering something. What do you want, Segawa-kun?”
I looked at the menu laid out on the table, and gulped in shock.
There wasn’t much on the menu, but each item’s shockingly pricey. A can of coke’s worth 450 yen, and black tea’s worth up to 1000. Who would order such stuff? Maybe some company boss. I don’t know.
Shiina-san seemed very familiar with this place as she ordered a cup of black coffee, so I ordered the same. I had never drunk coffee.
“Here, for you. This is the book I just talked about.”
Once we placed our orders, Shiina-san took out two books from her bag. I received one of them.
It’s a book she had, not the one she just bought.
We talked about books while on our way from the bookstore to the café. During that time, Shiina-san recommended me a book.
She so happened to have the book with her, and lent it to me. While she’s reading the new work, I could spend the time reading this.
“I think you’ll like it.”
“Looking forward to it.”
Before I started reading, I flipped through a few pages. The coffee was served at this moment.
The unique, rich aroma drifted leisurely along with the steam.
The employee bowed towards us, and returned to the counter. The long braids behind her head swayed sideways in a jovial manner.
I looked over at her, though not consciously. For some reason, Shiina-san pouted, as though reproaching me.
“Are you looking at that girl?”
“So she’s your type?”
“No. But, well, I find her pretty. Long hair’s nice, and she’s pretty feminine.”
“Hmm, so you like long hair.”
Shiina-san touched her hair, and sighed. In a familiar manner, she lifted the cup with her hands, and brought it to her lips. She added neither milk nor sugar, and looked really elegant. Even the way she drank coffee was out of a painting, it felt like.
But I had to add something here. Till this point, she was as pretty as a painting.
Shiina-san slowly brought the coffee to her lips, and the moment she gulped it down, she groaned. What’s with her?
“It’s bitter. What is this? It’s so bitter.”
“Eh? You don’t normally drink this?”
“It’s the first time I’m drinking this, actually.”
“Your first challenge is black coffee, huh?”
“But it seems like all women reading here at the café drink black coffee.”
Shiina-san groaned, looking as though she was poisoned, and reached out to the little saucer at the edge of the table. She put two cubes of sugar into the black liquid, stirred it with a spoon, and took a sip. Again she winced, and added another sugar cube.
After that, she cautiously took another sip, “Yep.” And nodded happily.
“Now it’s drinkable.”
To be honest, I was a little nervous to be facing an adult-like Shiina-san, but after seeing this, I heaved a sigh of relief. “It’s really bitter.” So Shiina-san said as she kept adding sugar into the coffee, and clearly she was a girl of my age. There was no reason for me to feel nervous.
“What about you, Segawa-kun? Do you often drink coffee?”
“It’s my first time drinking this too, actually.”
I told the truth. “Ahahaha.” Shiina-san“ laughed.
“Then you’re like me. Do you want sugar? Or are you going to challenge this black coffee?”
“Well, it’s a rare chance, so I’ll accept the challenge.”
Like Shiina-san did before, I brought the coffee to my mouth without adding anything. At that moment, the scalding feeling and bitterness stung my tongue. I couldn’t help but frown. My tongue was aching. I scalded myself, it seemed. I hurriedly took a gulp of water, and put ice on the tip of my tongue.
“How is it? Very bitter?”
“I burned my tongue.”
“You’re unexpectedly careless, Segawa-kun.”
Shiina-san said as she sipped at the coffee, only for her to frown again. After some hesitation, she too cooled her tongue. I knew what happened to her. Surely her tongue’s feeling the same as me this time.
“You’re unexpectedly careless, Shiina-san.”
I commented gleefully. Shiina-san looked a little awkward as she fumbled with the ice in her mouth.
Only the sound of flipping pages echoed in the shop. Once we began reading, the employee switched off the music, and drifted off to dreamland. She looked pretty comfortable. Probably had a nice dream too, since she was smiling.
I was called, and lifted my head. I saw Shiina-san close her book and look towards me. I tucked a bookmark in mine, and closed it as she did. The coffee cups on the table were empty, and the glasses of water next to us were half empty.
“What is it?”
“How do you write the kanji ‘Haru Yoshi’?”
“Why ask this all of a sudden?”
“I’m just a little curious. It’s a rare name after all.”
“Is this about some novel? A trick question related to the name, or something like that?”
Shiina-san’s body shook. “I-it’s nothing like that at all.” She flatly denied. It’s really a terrible lie, so much so that she raised her voice at the very end.
After thinking about it, I placed my finger on the droplets on the glass, and used the droplets to write on the table. The droplets formed lines on the surface, lines that came together to form words. Soon after, the crooked words ‘Haruyoshi, 春由’ were formed.
“This is the kanji.”
“Ehh. Ah, what a coincidence.”
Shiina-san drew a word ‘ki, 希’ behind the ‘Yoshi, 由’. ‘Yuki由希‘, so I muttered.
“We share a word.”
“How nice.” So Shiina-san said.
We kept reading, chatted from time to time, and ordered cake. Before we knew it, almost five hours passed. No other customers visited this shop.
At night, the temperature dropped drastically, and the colourful lights formed a blurry glow in the town.
I could see stars in the sky.
Shiina-san told me the names of a few stars, so I asked her which of them were the ones she mentioned, but it seemed she only knew of their names.
While I sent Shiina-san back to the station, she gave me the blue book, as promised. “Thanks.” I bowed gratefully. The heaviness of the hard cover left me elated.
“Anyway, are you busy tomorrow, Segawa-kun? It’s Spring break now, isn’t it?
“I have track practice in the morning, but nothing in the afternoon.”
Even though I said that, I guess I just wanted to spend the afternoon reading this book.
“Then can we meet in the afternoon? I want to talk about this book, and what you think?”
I recalled that while we spent the entire day just reading and chatting, I enjoyed it. Shiina-san panicked, probably because she saw that I was being silent,
“Ah, but I don’t need you to finish it by tomorrow, Segawa-kun. You can talk about the book you read too. Well, I really enjoyed myself today.”
Ah. Why’s that? Seeing how Shiina-san had the same feelings as I, I was really happy.
“Alright. See you tomorrow.”
The moment we bade farewell, “Ah.” Shiina-san exclaimed as she pointed to the sky. The white mist that occurred when we talked was no longer present. Spring had arrived, the season of all beginnings. Winter's behind us.
“I know that star though.”
She told me the name of that bright, orange star.
“Arcturus. The Hawaiians call it Hōkūleʻa, the star of Gladness.”
Once club activities ended, I walked down the corridor. At this moment, a round white object scampered by me. Time passed slowly during Spring vacation, especially in the side block with clubrooms. Thus, that fast speed really caught my attention. So, what was that?
I walked as I thought about the real identity of the object that caught my attention, only to be smacked in the back of the head.
“Ow. Who did that?”
My name was then called out. It’s a familiar voice.
“Akane, can you stop smacking people out of nowhere?”
I called out the culprit’s name as I turned around, and saw my peer Akane Rindou puffing her cheeks angrily, standing almightily. She was holding a white shopping bag in her right hand. So that was the white thing. Seemed like there’s lots of juice inside it.
Probably some reward for her juniors.
Since last summer, she was made captain of the swimming team.
“No, it’s your fault, Haru.”
“So tell me, what did I do?”
“It’s your fault for doing nothing. You should at least greet a classmate who passed by. Seriously, you’re always like this, Haru, acting like nothing happened. It isn’t good.”
It’s unreasonable, but since Akane said so, the passive me chose to lower my head in apology. Well, let’s just get this done and over with.
“My bad. Didn’t notice you there, Akane. I was spacing out.”
“So you’re saying that I’ve no presence? Return my maiden heart for hoping even a little that you’ll talk to me.”
“Shocked about what?”
“Shocked that you have such a thing, Akane.”
Ah, for some reason, I heard a sound I should not be hearing.
“What do you think I am?”
Akane’s tsurime eyes were completely raised. She raised the blunt weapons in her two hands. Akane’s pretty thin, but due to her swimming training, she’s full of muscles. Yeah. I knew that arm strength-wise, she’s stronger than me. At this point, it’s very dangerous. I continued to dodge her repeatedly, for dear life.
“Wait, it’s dangerous! Stop!”
“I get it! My bad.”
“Then what do you understand?”
“So you don’t understand anything!”
“No, erm. Yeah. I get that you’re a really charming girl.”
The moment I shouted that, the blunt weapon grazed my nose. My heart was pounding wildly, and it sounded really loud. My body was shaking all over. For a moment, my body was shivering, and cold sweat broke out.
I didn’t know if my desperation reached her, but Akane finally stopped her attacks.
“For some reason, it feels like you just said that without putting your heart into it. It’s annoying.”
“Then what am I supposed to say?”
“Whatever. I’m at fault too for believing in you, Haru. Both sides lost out here.”
No, I’m the only one who suffered. This time, I managed to swallow these words before they left my mouth. Clearly I would have added oil to the fire otherwise. I won’t make the same mistake again.
“So Haru, what are you doing?”
“What? Practice’s over, so I’m returning to the clubroom. What about you?”
“Well, I’m cleaning the clubroom with everyone else. Want to do that before the new members come in. You can help out if you want. I’ll reward you with juice.”
“Sorry. Got an appointment to keep.”
Upon hearing that, Akane’s nicely shaped eyebrows frowned.
“Again? Feels like you’re being antisocial recently. Is it like the last time when you said that you got something on, and went off alone?”
“No no no. I really have an appointment with someone today.”
“Hmm. Guess there’s no helping it. It’s a pity. But well, spend some time with me.”
“I said I got something on.”
“I’m not asking you to clean the clubroom with me. I’m taking a break. I won’t take up that much of your time. I’ll have to deliver juice over anyway. Since you’re spacing out and walking, that means you have lots of time, right?”
Akane’s right. There’s still 40 minutes until the appointment.
“Well, that, I don’t mind.”
“It’s decided then..”
Akane snapped her fingers, and put the pile of juice by the pillar. She then started to open the corridor windows one by one.
Whenever she opened the transparent glass windows, Akane’s short hair would flutter with the wind. Her face was steaming with hot air, probably due to work. Her face was dyed pink.
“Ahh—the wind really feels good.”
I poked my head from the same window as hers, and for some reason, she showed a weird face. “Hiee” she shrieked, “How rude.” She pulled some distance from me, and I really felt emotionally hurt.
To heal my broken heart as much as possible, I looked towards the hills. The weather’s fine, and the distant places are all clear and visible. The lingering pink might be cherry blossoms, or maybe plum flowers.
“The club seniors have all graduated, haven’t they?”
Akane pointed her finger at a window nearby, saying that.
Her voice lacked the vigor she had before.
“Don’t you think it’s scary when so many things happen out of a sudden? Like, next year, and the stuff after that. Can I really handle them all?”
Ah, so this is why Akane called me over.
But unfortunately, Akane called for the wrong person.
It’s true that Akane and I will be seniors, and we’ll be club presidents.
But Akane also had to handle the expectations of the entire school. Just the previous year, she barely missed out on the Nationals. The pressure she bore was something I couldn’t match.
I turned around, and leaned my body on the railing. I then pulled myself back, looking up, and saw the sun half-hidden behind the roof. That caused me to narrow my eyes.
It’s so bright. So I thought.
It wasn’t the sun that was too bright for me, but Akane.
For me, the natural reaction after defeat was regret.
Those that had no such thoughts would never make it as a competitor. Akane was terrified of that because there was something of equilibrium to the utmost effort she put in.
And I had none of that.
My mind was just filled with the cliché, passive mindset of ‘it’s fine’, ‘you can do it’. For her, these useless words of mine probably would seem so empty to her.
Even if I did try to think hard about it—
Ah, it’s useless after all.
The half-hidden sun was burning my skin. “Ahh.” I opened my mouth, and for some reason, I felt parched, probably because the rotten words reaching behind my teeth had vaporized.
I had nothing else to say.
“Anyway, do you know? The maths teacher Matsue-chan’s getting married soon.”
In the end, I chose to escape by changing the topic.
Akane didn’t say anything, and forgave this dishonesty that was so typical of me.
“No way. Who is it? The PE teacher Jimi-sensei? The language teacher Yone-sensei? There’s lots of rumors about her. So she finally decided on one?”
“Eh, Matsue-chan has that many rumors?”
I was a little shocked. I always thought she was the pure, pretty teacher.
“You’re too naïve, Haru. If you’re not careful, you’ll be led astray by a bad girl, you know?”
I laughed with her.
Just the pointless time trickled by quietly.
Will I too be able to find something I will give my utmost for?
So I thought blankly in a corner of my mind.
I bade farewell to Akane, and met up with Shiina-san as promised. She came to a place near school to pick me up. I noticed her leaning on the telephone phone, “Good afternoon.” She greeted me.
“Since you’re here, how about you observe my club activities?”
“I really want to, but you aren’t running by yourself, are you, Segawa-kun?”
“Of course. It’s a club activity after all. I was running with the others.”
“Hm, in that case, I guess not. That’s not a place I can enter.”
“I don’t think you’ll be found out.”
“That’s not the problem. It’s just a rule I set for myself.”
We chit-chatted, and went to the beach area near the school, as Shiina-san suggested. The butterflies with pure white wings fluttered around the golden Nanohanas, as though dancing around.
Shiina-san happily reached out for one the butterflies, and her fingertip touched one of them.
Without looking at me, she asked,
“Hey, Segawa-kun, why did you help me pick that book at the bookstore?”
She pulled back her finger, and the petal shook. The tremor reached the other petals, and the butterflies reacted as they flew towards the sky. Till the very end, Shiina-san watched the butterflies rise with the wind, fluttering gracefully.
“You asked me to pick it for you, right?”
“Yep. But you’re looking for that book too, Segawa-kun. You wanted it too, so why did you give me the book?”
“Well, you’re the one who found it first, Shiina-san. That’s why you have the right to buy it.”
“You don’t feel reluctant about it?”
“I guess I probably didn’t feel reluctant about it at all, just some regret.”
I didn’t know if Shiina-san had taken my answer for a yes, “I see.” As she was of similar height to me, her eyes were about the same level.
“Things you really want can’t be obtained if you don’t reach out for yourself.”
“What’s that? Who came up with that saying?”
“No-one. It’s my own sage wisdom.”
Saying that, Shiina-san reached her hand out towards me. Her clenched fist opened up like a flower.
“Can you hold my hand?”
“…Well, I can.”
Just as she touched the Nanohana, I gently touched her fingertips, and my fingers reached hers. Finally, our palms matched.
At that moment, we exerted strength, and our hands were finally held together.
“Yep. This is what I’m talking about. Do you understand?”
I could only shake my head.
I understood nothing.
“If only you’ll understand this one day, Segawa-kun.”
I didn’t manage to hear what she was muttering about, and when I asked, Shiina-san laughed it off.
“Nothing at all. More importantly, where are we going today?”
After that, we went to various places.
We went to the game center, the bowling alley, and watched a movie. The hour hand passed six, and while sending Shiina-san to the train station, I met a familiar face.
It’s my classmate, Takuma Midou.
Seemed like he was hanging out with his buddies from the basketball team.
“Yo, ain’t it Haru? Whatcha doing here?”
Takuma gestured for the others to head off first.
“Nothing much, well, just hanging out. Just finished club activities, Takuma?”
“Sorta. We’re going for karaoke later. You wanna come along?”
“No, thanks. I’m not too familiar with the guys on the basketball team, and I’m not alone.”
“You’re together with your club guys?”
“No, not them.”
Once I was asked this question, I suddenly thought of something.
What’s my relationship with Shiina-san? Acquaintances? Friends? While I fumbled about, she poked her head out over my shoulder.
“Good evening. Are you Segawa-kun’s friend?”
Upon seeing Shiina-san, time stood still for Takuma, and only restarted five seconds later. Well, I can’t say that I don’t understand. If it were me, I would have showed the exact same reaction.
“Hah? Ehhhhhh, wait wait wait. Who’s this pretty girl? She’s not from our school, right? Anyway, eh, eh, you, are you…”
It’s a rare sight.
Takuma’s smart and athletic, and he’s normally a lot more matured than those in our school year. He’s always able to deal with each problem calmly. And that Takuma’s mouth was wide upon, looking back and forth between Shiina-san and me.
“Wait, Takuma. You’re mistaken.”
“What am I mistaken about, you traitor.”
“No, I’m telling you to hold up. I didn’t betray you or anything.”
I was trying to coax Takuma, but Shiina-san tugged at the hem of my shirt. “What now?” so I thought, and at that moment, she put her hand at my ear, blowing into it. It was a nerve wrecking feeling, and I covered my ear with my hand, exclaiming wildly. I felt a chill down my spine, and my cheek was heating up. What’s she playing at?
Takuma glared at me as though I was the enemy who killed his relatives.
“Hey, whatcha mean you’re not betraying me? What did she just whisper to you? That she likes you? Aren’t you just flirting!?”
“No, it’s not what you think, you know. Shiina-san, help me out here.”
“Ehh, have my feelings not reached you, Segawa-kun?”
Shiina-san deliberately turned her body around, delivering the haymaker.
The perfectly fatal hit left me completely speechless.
“Dammit!!!” Takuma yelled.
Then, he gently tapped my head, before running off into the night streets. “Haru, you traitor!!! Explode already!!” That booming voice of his echoed. Once he vanished from my sight, I asked Shiina-san, who had been laughing the entire time.
“That was on purpose, right?”
“What are you saying?”
She put her hand under her chin, playing the fool.
“You’re really a criminal who believes she’s right.”
“Fine, fine. You don’t like that, Segawa-kun?”
“You hate that people may think you’re in that kind of relationship with me?”
“I see. Then it’s alright, no? More importantly, I’m a little shocked that you’ll address a classmate by name directly, Segawa-kun. You don’t seem to give that sort of impression..”
“I call those I’m on good terms with by name.”
“I see. So call me ‘Yuki’, Segawa-kun. I’ll start calling you ’Yoshi-kun’.”
“You’re not calling me Haru?”
“Well, I hate the Spring for ‘Haru’, but I like the ‘Yoshi’. We both have the same kanji, so I’ll call you Yoshi-kun.”
“You hate spring? Why?”
“…When Spring comes, the air warms, and the snow melts away, disappearing. Everyone will forget the snow, right? The snow’s there, but it gets forgotten. I just don’t really like it.”
Though the kanji’s different, her name sounds like ‘Snow’ in Japanese.
Shiina-san probably experienced the feeling of being forgotten.
It wasn’t something I could easily deny or affirm, since I knew nothing about her.
All I knew was that when I heard ‘I hate the Spring’, my heart ached.
For I got the feeling she was saying that the snow and the spring could never be together.
“Hey, Yoshi-kun. Call me Yuki.”
But even so, if she hoped for it, I’ll call her Yuki.
“Got it, Yuki.”
At that moment, Yuki’s face reddened.
“Woah, being called by name’s a lot more amazing than I thought. This might be the first time a guy other than my dad called me that.”
I watched Yuki point at her face with her finger, and found it a little funny. However, her words repeated themselves countless times in a corner of my mind, deep within my heart.
——I hate the spring.
On the only rest day in spring vacation for club activities, I went to Yairo Park with Yuki.
The park built around the lake was 5km in perimeter, and it was said that different scenes could be seen from eight different points, thus the name Yairo Park.
It’s a week day, and the park’s a lot quieter than usual. At night, it would be bustling full of adults wanting to smell the flowers, but not so in the daytime.
But Yuki’s a lot happier than I thought.
“Wow, there’s a place like this too.”
My hands were in my coat pockets as I followed Yuki, who was looking around with much curiosity. I fumbled for the shape of the little item in my pocket, checking if it was there. It was something I could easily hold in my palm, but I just felt that it was really heavy, not physically heavy though. I had an additional emotional weight to this certain item.
The reason why I brought Yuki here was because I wanted a place nobody would disturb us, and gift her something I bought yesterday.
The other conditions were fulfilled.
All I need was the mood and timing, but it’s difficult to get them to align.
We went halfway around the park, and the gift was still bouncing in my pocket.
Ever since I met Yuki, I found myself to be interestingly useless. I thought I could handle a lot more things perfectly, but I ended up fumbling before Yuki. Why’s that?
The light shone towards the leaves, and through them. Shadows were formed, forming stark contrasts of black and white on my face.
Under the gentle sunlight, I aimed for a moment to talk. Instead, I was approached by someone instead.
It’s a deeper voice, different from Yuki.
“Ah, the two of you there. Hold on a moment.”
We turned around to the voice calling for us, and found a large bear-like man sprinting towards us. I could hear a rumbling sound effect. He looked so panicky, so we just stopped in our tracks——that was a wrong choice.
That man was huffing so hard, he was almost dying. He went behind me, and suddenly grabbed me by the elbow.
“Ahh——I’m saved. Please come along with us.”
“Wh-what’s going on?
“We’re filming a movie, but we don’t have enough actors at the last moment. It’s causing us lots of trouble.”
“No no no, hold on. I don’t get what you mean.”
“Don’t get, what I mean?”
The man turned towards me with bewilderment. I took a closer look at his face, and found him to be still somewhat young. He’s probably in his twenties, at the phase when I’m still somewhat able to call him a young man.
That man's eyes were fixed upon Yuki, who's behind me, and the round eyes hidden behind the hair were dazzling.
It was obvious what he was thinking. I wanted to run immediately, but my arm got grabbed, and I couldn't break free. He spaced out for about three seconds or so, and called me again.
If I had been alone, I might have been overwhelmed by this guy and thrown in the white towel. However, I'm different, since Yuki's behind me.
"But I haven't said anything?"
"I know what you want to say. You want Yuki to appear in the movie."
And at this point, Yuki, who had been watching the entire development, raised her hand,
"Why is it that you're deciding about me, Yoshi-kun?"
Both of us looked towards Yuki.
"...You want to act?"
"It sounds fun. It's a great way to commemorate today too."
The man didn't let the words slip him by, and immediately chimed in loudly.
"Yes yes. Don't decide on what the girl wants, boy."
Then you should have asked Yuki instead of me, right? Speaking of which, it seemed like this guy never intended to negotiate with Yuki to begin with. What's going on?
"Hey, let's go, Yoshi-kun."
The whole process was a little unpleasant, but I was forced to got it. Understood, that was all I could say.
"Really? Then it's decided. Both of you shall perform then. Yosh, thank goodness."
The guy forced the conclusion, probably to stop us from changing our minds.
But since I don't like it, just let me continue to struggle a little.
"Mind letting go of my arm now?"
The filming scene was at the bench in the park.
I wasn't sure of the scenes before and after, but it seemed we're going to film a scene of a quarreling couple making amends.
The guy who called us over was apparently the director of this movie. "Yo director." someone called for him, and he responded, giving a completely different look from what we just saw. The aura around him changed immediately.
Calling for him was a slightly plump young woman. She approached us, looked back and forth between Yuki and me, and finally fixed her eyes on Yuki.
"What's with this girl? Isn't she a real cutie?"
"Yeah. I want to get her to act in our movie."
"Nice, nice. For the next movie?"
"Nope, this movie."
Suddenly, the atmosphere froze over. "No no no no no no no no", the woman kept repeating those words. "No no no no no no no."
"What are you thinking? This won't work"
"Really? I want to see how she performs."
"Look, I get how you feel. I want her to act too. But what about this movie? I don't know what role you want her to appear as, but if she's acting too, the whole movie might get scrapped."
"Don't worry. I'll get this film done properly. But well, I might have to cause you guys some trouble...your efforts won't be wasted. Trust me."
The director smacked his chest without hesitation.
"...Is that so?"
"Yeah. That's right."
The young woman gave up and sighed, probably because this little conversation allowed for them to communicate a few things.
"Haa. I got it. It's pointless for me to say anything. Anyway, I'll leave you to do the follow shot Kazuha-chan. She's a sharp one, and she'll know when we aren't taking this seriously enough. If that happens, she'll kick up a fuss, and there won't be any other scenes to film. We can't allow that to happen."
"Got it. I'll do that. Sorry, but I'll leave you to guide these two."
After saying that, the director hurried off.
We watched his back, along with the woman whose name we didn't know.
The tense atmosphere vanished in an instant. There's just the woman smiling as happily as the director did, and us two, who didn't know the meaning of that conversation.
"Erm, just now, what did you two just talk about,"
"Ahh, don't worry about it. You'll understand. But well, I'll say this first. That guy's really selfish and stubborn, so just say what you want to him."
Yuki and I exchanged looks, tilting our heads.
In the end, we were imprisoned for almost four hours.
It was just a single scene, but there were multiple retakes.
It seemed these would be edited into a scene later on.
The roles we were assigned were passers-by A and B. If Yuki walked in front, she would attract too much attention, so the director instructed that I be a shield to block her.
But even so, the director saw the short that was just completed, "Hmm."
"I guess she attracts too much attention. My eyes just end up looking towards her."
He muttered, making sure the actors didn't hear him, but as Yuki and I were nearby, we heard him clearly. After that, we realized the director just wanted us to hear that, and that was why he kept his voice down.
He waved us over, and we did as he said, looking at the laptop screen. It showed 10 minutes of footage.
In the center of the footage was a college couple.
And behind them were two passers-by.
These two passers-by had no lines, no description, and they were just talking. Before we knew it, we found that the scene had changed. Eh, what's going on? I couldn't remember what the protagonists were talking about. Yuki's face was the only thing left in my memory. In that memory, Yuki and I were smiling, chatting. This little thing alone was like a miracle.
If it were a complete movie, surely I would not want to spend this time watching any other scenes. Even if I did see the entire movie, in the end, what remained in my mind might only be Yuki's smile.
As the woman had said, the story was all wasted.
"Hey boy. Don't you find it a pity? It's rare to see such a pretty human around. You want to see more stories involving the girl, right?"
I finally understood the meaning of the conversation between the director and the woman.
The director knew this movie would be scrapped, but he spent the time and effort just to get the actress Yuki.
But Yuki shook her head.
"Erm, it's fine. Don't worry, it's usable."
"No no no, girl, you don't understand. We can't use this movie. Everyone watching will just look towards you."
The director seemed taken aback by Yuki's response, and he panicked. Before I knew it, he was already talking to Yuki directly. He might be feeling really anxious, or maybe it's his nature as a director.
"Shall we have a bet then?"
Yuki proposed, her face showing some intent.
"If this scene causes the movie to be scrapped, I'll listen to anything you'll say, director."
"So that means you'll agree if I say that I want you to appear in a movie?"
"Right. But it's impossible if a miracle doesn't happen. A miracle doesn't happen many times."
"What do you mean?"
"...In other words, if a miracle occurs once, that's luck, and there won't be a second time. No, for every miracle, an equivalent price has to be paid, so it's not all down to luck."
I couldn't get what Yuki was saying.
The director probably felt the same. After some thinking, "I see." he summized. He's probably content just to have Yuki appear in the movie.
Before we knew it, the day was darkening, and the night grew.
The director and the others hastily began to pack up.
I stared blankly at them; the director noticed me, and approached me.
“Good work there.”
"It's been a long day."
“You really helped me out. Well, you only appeared for like 10 seconds or so though. Acting's fun, right?"
"Not really. I've had enough of it. I'm not suited to standing out."
We talked at a place a little far away, looking at Yuki.
The common saying goes that three women make a market, so if there's five, there's no end. Girls are creatures who like to chat. I grew up listening to my mother and little sister insist their way out, so I had no choice but to wait for their conversation to end.
"Well, to be honest, can the scene today be used?"
"Well, to be honest, it's impossible to use it by itself. Since I had a bet with the girl, I'll try to edit it. If our internal critical review is bad, we'll just have to scrap it. Then I'll have to bow down to those guys and get them to reshoot it."
That's all I could say. Everything left was up to the director to decide, since it's a bet between him and Yuki.
“Oh yeah, these tickets are for you. There’ll be a public screening during the culture festival next Autumn, so do come by to watch. I'll deliver the best movie for everyone”
“Next year? Not this year?”
“The production probably won’t be finished this year. Once this is done next year, I’ll be graduating.”
I received the tickets from the director's hands.
The tickets were crumpled, probably because he just shoved it into his pocket. I tried to flatten them in my hands, but I couldn't even it out. The red words 'Yasaka University' were a little worn out.
"Eh? Why two?"
"Invite the girl along. I'm dumb with such things, but I can understand a little through the camera. Do your best. Normally, it's the guy who asks the girl out to watch."
The director said some vague thing, and patted my back hard with a smile.
My organs were hurting.
We bade farewell to the director and the others, and arrived at a large cherry blossom tree.
Unfortunately, the sakuras had bloomed a long time ago, and the tree looked a little forlorn. The white flowers had scattered, and the trees on the branches were lush. The next season was coming.
"What did you talk about with the director?"
"Just small talk. What about you, Yuki? What did you say to the women?"
"Secrets are important to a girl, you know?"
She said demurely, and ran towards the sakura trees. The breeze rustled, and the petals danced. Her skirt fluttered. Her fluffy hair shook.
Suddenly, I felt an aching heat in my heart. The director's large hand shoved me on the back.
I made up my mind.
I shouted out to her, from a not-so-far distance.
"I got something for you."
I pulled out the thing that was inside my pocket the entire time. There was no turning back. I approached Yuki. It was a few meters, but I was gasping for breathing. My heart was breathing faster than a 100m sprint.
"If you don't mind, will you accept this?"
I handed over the finely wrapped box to her. My pocket was finally a little lighter. It was the first time I gave a gift to a girl other than my family, and I was really nervous.
I gulped hard, and said,
Hearing that, Yuki opened the box, and retrieved a little pink bottle from it.
"A sakura perfume?"
"Yep. You said that you hate the spring because everyone forgets the snow. If there's the smell of sakura all the time, maybe you might think of snow as well."
Yuki said that she hated the Spring.
So I've been thinking.
I was thinking how to get her to remember the snow even after it melted, when winter ends and spring comes. This was the answer I got after much thinking.
"I see. So this is the smell of spring."
"Yes, that's why."
I hope that you won't say that you hate the spring.
I swallowed down the last bit of words. Even if I didn't say anything, my thoughts probably reached her.
After some consideration, Yuki knew that I wouldn't continue to talk, and she said,
"But will it be as you say?"
"Ah--you aren't confident about it."
"Of course, I will remember. Or rather, I definitely can't forget. I can't say the same for others though."
"Then it's enough."
Yuki said. "If you could remember, that'd be good enough, Yoshi-kun."
We looked up at the rows of sakura trees. We smelled the sweet scent. Whenever I smell it, I'll remember Yuki, I guess. Ah, how can I forget then?
"And then, there's something else you want to give me too, right?"
Eh? There's something else?
I tried to recall, "Haa." and Yuki gave a deliberately long sigh, telling me the answer impatiently,
"You're not giving me what the director gave you?"
"So you know?"
I reached my hand into my other pocket, and took out the two color raffles. I wanted to invite her out another day, but well, so be it. I handed a pretty crumpled movie ticket to Yuki.
"It's a movie ticket. If you can, you mind watching it with me?"
Yuki nodded. "But." she added.
"I want you to invite me again."
"I'm trying to see if you can remember me. Next year, I'll come by with this sakura perfume smell, so invite me to the movie again. You should hold onto these two tickets for now."
"Make sure you do it."
"Yeah, it's a promise."
Hearing my words, Yuki looked really elated, but at the same time, she muttered something. It's an icy cold voice completely unrelated to the expression she showed--
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